Retinal innervation of Calbindin-D(28K) cells in the hamster suprachiasmatic nucleus: Ultrastructural characterization

Damani N. Bryant, Joseph LeSauter, Rae Silver, Maria Teresa Romero

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The authors have described a subregion of the hamster hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) containing cells that are immunopositive for the cytosolic calcium-binding protein, Calbindin-D(28K) (CaBP). Several lines of evidence indicate that this region may constitute the site of the pacemaker cells that are responsible for the regulation of circadian locomotor rhythms. First, 79% of the CaBP-immunoreactive (ir) neurons express Fos in response to photic stimulation, indicating that they are close to or part of the input pathway to pacemakers. Second, at the light microscopy level, retinal terminals innervate the CaBP subnucleus. Finally, destruction of this subnucleus renders animals arrhythmic in locomotor activity. In this study, the authors examined the ultrastructural relationship between cholera toxin (CTβ) labeled retinal fibers and the CaBP-ir subregion within the hamster SCN. CTβ-ir retinal terminals make primarily axo-somatic, symmetric, synaptic contacts with CaBP-ir perikarya. In addition, retinal terminals form synapses with CaBP processes as well as with unidentified profiles. There are also complex interactions between retinal terminals, CaBP perikarya, and unidentified profiles. Given that axo-somatic synaptic input has a more potent influence on a cell's electrical activity than does axo-dendritic synaptic input, cells of the CaBP subregion of the SCN are ideally suited to respond rapidly to photic stimulation to reset circadian pacemakers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-111
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • CaBP
  • Calbindin-D(28K)
  • Calcium-binding proteins
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Electron microscopy
  • Pacemaker
  • Retinal terminals
  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus


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